Ten years ago today I woke up early to the sound of birds – typical of a Johannesburg spring morning. It hadn’t been the most restful or peaceful of slumbers. When I’d initially dropped off to sleep the night before my brother came and woke me up because there was a moth in his room. Thirteen months of living in deepest, darkest Africa had prepared me for such events and so I swiftly stepped forward and twatted it with a flip flop (the moth rather than my dear brother although I was tempted…).
After that I lay awake for quite a while contemplating the universe as one does in the small hours leading up to your wedding.
Our wedding day had its moments of madness – two particular highlights stand out. The first was my mother-in-law accidentally closing a car door on my fingers and me panicking that I wouldn’t be able to wear a ring. The second was the frantic last hour or two before the ceremony where T and I ran around dealing with a million last minute issues because most of our local family “help” were busy attending an impromptu birthday party for my nephew somewhere else on the grounds. Looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t rain and I spent the day with my best friend – what more could I want?
The road to marriage was never an easy one for us – from day one our relationship really shouldn’t have worked. We met working for an outdoor advertising company in the UK that we both joined at the turn of the millennium. Tandor was 19 and I was 26. She was tall, skinny, beautiful and foreign. I was…me. She had taken the job on advice from her boyfriend who had followed her over to London – a job that she had been placed for interview by none other than…my fiancee at the time.
It’s not quite true that we met properly while I was crawling around under her desk trying to fix a computer issue that resulted in smoke coming out of her PC but it’s as good a place as any to start. We hit it off immediately and, along with a miserable cockney git called Mike Matthews (he lovingly refers to me as Sheepshagger and T as Foreigner) the least likely trio of friends was born.
T and I were the office scandal from that point – not that there was any basis for it for quite a while. Seems that everyone else could see where it was going long before we admitted it to ourselves. Eventually the inevitable happened at a work Christmas party. T was dressed as a cowgirl, I arrived there on crutches as an injured Welsh rugby player due to the fact I was recovering from knee surgery. A kiss at a Christmas party might well be cliché, but I’ve dined out for years on the fact that I could score with a much-younger hottie while I was only on one leg.
Our respective relationships ended quickly after that and fairly soon we were living together and facing our first major challenge. Before we got together Tandor had signed up to study at Grahamstown University in the Eastern Cape. I think perhaps deep down both of us initially thought that we’d have a fun year before she left and then call it quits but it became apparent very quickly that neither of us was going without a fight.
We agreed that we’d stay together despite the distance and just see what hand fate dealt us. Admittedly we gave fate a few nudges by me using up every scrap of leave and finance to fly back and forth to SA as often as possible but for long periods we were restricted to weekly phone calls and letters. As the end of T’s first year approached I knew I was ready to go anywhere in order to make it work and offered to move to SA and find a job. In the end T decided she would prefer to move back to the UK and that’s what happened. I quite my job, we travelled SA for a little while and then we moved back to London together to start again.
This was a pretty tough time for us as not everyone thought it was the right decision. I was inaccurately portrayed by some as being the one who put pressure on T to give up her studies which caused a lot of anger and resentment for a while. T found work sooner than I did and financially things were tight. When I did start working again it wasn’t long before I started having to work away from home most weeks. The money was great but the pressure it put on us was huge.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom – far from it. We travelled, we ate in nice restaurants and we got to spend time with great friends and family. By now any lingering doubts I had as to whether this is the girl I would marry were long gone and I had grand plans to propose to T in a surprise trip to New York over Valentine’s Day. That didn’t quite happen. Prior to that trip we were in South Africa with T’s family and I asked her father’s permission to marry her. I explained my plans and we all went off to the Kruger Park with him sworn to secrecy. Out of nowhere on the last day of the trip he told me that he thought it would be best to propose while T was still in SA so that the family could celebrate. This led to the wonderful moment on our final night in the Kruger where I proposed to my wife while she was lying prone on a bed with stomach cramps.
I asked her again in New York just to be sure.
Since getting engaged it’s all been plain sailing as you would expect. We’ve lived in three different locations, two continents and in five different houses. We’ve met the only jeweller in the world who could manage to break a diamond in an engagement ring when trying to resize it. We’ve survived the low of T suffering a miscarriage and the highs of having two extraordinary children and ten years of marriage. We’re entering a new phase of our lives now where we are getting to know each other once again as the all-encompassing pressure of keeping two small people alive lifts a little and we have time to be something other than mum and dad. It’s scary and exciting and there’s no person in the world I’d rather be doing it with.
In fact, it’s hard to believe that there really was a time when our moments were fleeting.
When we first got together I was playing in a band and T made me promise I’d never write a song about her.
I mostly stuck to that promise.
I didn’t mean for it to happen but I sat around one night all those years ago when we were in different countries and realised that all I wanted was to have just fifteen minutes with the person I loved the most. So I broke my promise, wrote her a song and recorded it with our best friends.
I don’t think she was too upset. Although she might be now that I’ve stuck it on this blog…
We got a lot more than fifteen minutes and now I hope we’ll get a lot more than ten years.
So here’s to a decade being married to my best friend. The woman who supports me in everything I do, bears the brunt of all my many frustrations and failings and makes me a better person every single day.
I would be utterly lost without you T.
No really, my sense of geography is terrible.
I may have had the idea for a song but it wouldn’t have amounted to anything without the collaborative brilliance of Andrew Eveleigh, Andrew Proome, Paul Carr and Tim Proome – scary how fifteen minutes became fifteen years guys…